"Tolstoy said, 'Art is the transfer of emotion from one person to another.'" Ken Burns interviewed by Savagenyc
SAVAGENYC: WHAT ARE YOUR SPECIFIC HOPES FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IN TERMS OF REACHING OUT TO THE ARTS COMMUNITY?
KEN BURNS: It feels like a changing of the guard. More importantly, it doesn't seem like a changing of the guard, it feels like it ---and I think that's the thing. Tolstoy said, "art is the transfer of emotion from one person to another," and I think what we've seen is, essentially, eight years in which the arts, even the arts, have been politicized. And we didn't need that to happen. These are tough times and we need the arts even more than ever. And, I think what we'll see is, a little bit, not clearer sailing, because the arts aren't about that, they're about always unsettling things, but we'll allow (artists) to do their work unfettered by any interference from the people who want to be arbiters, the commissars.
SAVAGENYC: WHAT, SPECIFICALLY, IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN?
KEN BURNS: Well, we don't need an Arts Czar. We have an NEA as well as Humanities. I think what we want are people who are willing to take risks, who realize that the arts are the life and blood of a country; they don't have anything to do with the actual defense of the country, they just make the country worth defending.
SAVVAGENYC: HAVE YOU SEEN ANY ENCOURAGING SIGNS SO FAR?
Ken Burns: Yeah, I have. I think the naming of Rocco Landesman as the NEA Chairman, is a good sign. I think seeing Jim Leach, who is a former congressman from Iowa, appointed by Obama to head the National Endowment for the Humanities is also a good sign, a sign that they want to leave these places untouched by politics.